4.5. Why Are We So Unhealthy?

Having healthy habits is an act of resistance against all the companies that want to make money off of making you ill.

Why are we so unhealthy?

After all, there are only four things we need to do to drastically reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and many other health problems.

Don’t smoke. Maintain a healthy weight. Eat healthy foods. And get a fair amount of exercise.

But according to a major study last year, only 2.7 percent of Americans do all four of those things—and only 16 percent managed three of the four.

Obviously, there’s a genetic component here. We’re predisposed to load up on unhealthy foods. We don’t want to break a sweat unless we feel we have to. And addiction is a whole other can of worms.

But that’s been the case for thousands of years. The biology can’t explain why we’re so lousy at doing those healthy behaviors now—and why our unhealthy habits are getting worse instead of better, despite our best efforts. Only a socioeconomic perspective can do that.

Let’s be blunt: our health crisis is a failure of capitalism.

There are certain things capitalism does well…but health is not one of them.

Because restaurants, food companies, cigarette companies, and other purveyors of bad health don’t have any incentive to treat you well.

They just want to make money. They just want you to come back.

So why not pump their stuff with butter, sugar, corn syrup, and other pseudo-addictive things? Why not pull out all the tricks in the book to make you crave what they’re selling?

It’s become a sophisticated science. Billions of dollars are spent to get you to gorge.

The standard rebuttal to this argument is: “Hey, it’s a free country. If people ‘choose’ to eat this stuff, why should we get in their way?”

But how can we pretend it’s a “free” choice, when we’re dealing with addictive and pseudo-addictive substances, reinforced by billions of dollars and thousands of ads?

Isn’t it an abuse of our “freedom” to profit off of people’s suffering—and then to pass on the costs of the suffering they cause to taxpayers, to an overburdened health care system, and to the shattered families with sick or dead loved ones?

This is an industry that’s created a health crisis for its own financial gain. And that’s appalling.

It’s really, really hard to prevail against the biological and socioeconomic forces making us unhealthy. Nature and nurture are conspiring to keep us overweight, lazy, and dependent on junk food, kitschy weight-loss programs, and pharmaceutical companies.

So don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t one of the 3 percent who does all the healthy things you should.

Use your knowledge of how this system works to motivate you.

Having healthy habits isn’t a sweaty, dreary, tiring, time-consuming, thankless way of life.

It’s an act of resistance against all the heartless companies that want to make money off of making you ill.

So make a plan for how you’re going to do all four of those healthy habits. And remember what you’re really doing, every time you sit down to eat or get up to exercise.

Taking pride in refusing to let those predatory companies have the satisfaction of taking your money is one of the few ways to overcome all those unhealthy forces we face today.


This is the 65th in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

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